One more dancer is sidelined by an injury, while a small-town boy continues to shine

By Kate Ward
Updated July 15, 2010 at 07:35 AM EDT
Credit: Mathieu Young/Fox
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There was the Curse of the Bambino. The Brady Bunch talisman. That poor broad in Paranormal Activity. And now, it seems, the So You Think You Can Dance curse. Because if you ask me, there’s something funny happening in CBS Television Studios. Last week, we lost one of the show’s greatest dancers, Alex F. Wong, to a lacerated Achilles tendon. And this week, yet another strong contender was sidelined: our poor Ashley, who suffered from rib pains and was advised not to dance. So what’s the deal? Has timeslot competitor Howie Mandel and the cast of America’s Got Talent been making use of their voodoo dolls?

Not that there was much missing from last night’s show with Ashley gone. As much as I really respect and enjoy the contemporary dancer’s work, and as much as I want her to get her rib function back, baby, last night’s show still offered plenty of highlights. We had fun Broadway numbers! An emotional contemporary routine! Mia impersonating a Golden Girl through style!

But no one was more golden last night than our dear small-town boy Kent, who shone throughout both of his routines. I suppose it isn’t necessarily fair, since one clearly catered to his aw-shucks demeanor. (Seriously, I bet this kid lives on penny candy.) You all know how much I love to knock a Tyce Broadway routine, but the choreographer hit one out of the park when it came to his Damn Yankees routine for Kent and Neil. (Even if I’m fairly certain I already saw it during Tuesday night’s all-star game. A-Rod’s got some mean jazz hands!) Because if you’re going to choreograph a routine for Kent, why not go all out? Why not plot out a number in which everything — costumes, music, movement — is over-the-top, matching the contestant’s own personality?

Yet, Kent still managed to thrive during a low-key contemporary dance later in the night, choreographed by Dee Caspary, in which he and AdéChiké romanced a piece of furniture. (This is not your kid’s musical chairs!) But as much as we can kid, this partnership proved to be a fruitful one — AdéChiké managed to match Kent’s performance level, while Kent toned down his showiness and proved that is, at his core, a dancer and not just a beloved reality star. Yet, while the judges did compliment the small-town boy for his skills, most of the props were saved for AdéChiké — and as much as I feel he deserved the praise (his grand jeté was breath-taking), it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to assume that Mia over-complimented the dancer, in light of her unfair treatment of him last week. She told him Desmond Richardson would be proud. She said he looked like Giselle. (Of course, she meant ”gazelle,” and not Mrs. Tom Brady. Although, remind me to dress like a gazelle next time I see Mia, so she can tell me I look like a Victoria’s Secret model.) In fact, Mia was one compliment away from calling AdéChiké the next coming of Mother Teresa.

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But then again, it would have taken divine intervention for anyone else to pull off that ”horizontal double” spin that AdéChiké and Anya executed during their Liz Lira and Danny Davalos competitive salsa. I was surprised, actually, that Mia knocked the pair, claiming they needed more hours of rehearsal, but did she see those spins? Those lifts? Had Jose executed the routine, I was sure they would have bowed to him, right before adopting 10,000 kittens in his name.

Because even when he doesn’t perform up to their expectations, the judges still take it easy on Jose. While they had no qualms delivering several verbal blows on AdéChiké last week, they showed more remorse than a supermodel after a Cinnabon dinner (I don’t know. I’m hungry.) judging Jose’s Joey Dowling Broadway routine with Courtney. And, for the first time this season, I found myself defending the b-boy’s work. For whatever reason, Jose meshed with the Broadway style, hitting each move with the precision expected from a dancer of his genre. If anything, I felt the choreography did Jose a disservice, spotlighting his abilities and relegating partner Courtney to the background. (Which is surprising, considering the routine’s plot revolved around Jose’s invisibility, and Courtney’s flamboyant costuming.) After all, if previous weeks have proved anything, it’s that Jose’s better off with a stellar partner to distract audiences from his middling abilities. The judge’s panel, however, isn’t happy unless Jose is on stage grinning like an idiot at a screening of Jackass, and deemed Jose too pathetic. But… isn’t that the point of Chicago‘s Mister Cellophane?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but see right through Jose during his second routine of the evening, a NapTab b-boy routine with Dominic. Perhaps that’s because they teased us with images of Legacy, working as an assistant, during the rehearsal footage. Perhaps that’s because I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the most unnecessary prop in recent SYTYCD memory, a sword in a stone. (I must have missed that part in Excalibur when King Arthur and his court were wearing Nikes and sequined jeans.) Or most likely, perhaps that’s because Dominic simply out-danced his partner. Not that it was a surprise — during the rolling credits last week, we saw a tease of the two dancers facing off, and Dominic served Jose like he was Geoffrey Butler. The judges, however, are clearly still backing Jose as a sentimental favorite, because they failed to mention the dancer’s lack of height, and tendency to fall out of sync with his partner. Instead, they claimed he redeemed himself since his last routine, leading Jose to unleash a bevy of fart-smelling tears. (This kid went to the Joey Tribbiani School of Soap Acting!) Good thing our lovely Cat brought some humor to the situation by telling Dominic to go off and have fun with his sword backstage. That’s what Nigel said!

The bizarre Excalibur moment had nothing on Lauren and Mark’s Tahitian routine, the strangest — and most interesting — dance style to hit the SYTYCD stage since Russian Folk. Good thing this genre was more successful than the latter — the tropical routine was fascinating, well-danced, and honestly left me craving a pineapple milkshake. (Even if I saw less ”night and day” than ”tree and Björk,” thanks to the costuming.) Of course, it left Nigel craving a different kind of milkshake entirely — our resident pervster opted to compliment Lauren by referencing her hips and saying, ”This brings a whole new look to the show, and one that I’m happy to see, to be frank with you.” Then Mia reached onto the table, picked up his jaw, and handed it back to our executive producer. Because he was going to need that in order to verbally undress Lauren during her next number.

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Luckily, though, that wasn’t necessary, since her Mandy Moore jazz routine with Billy was more fun than freaky. Like most dances from the choreographer, the ”Boogie Shoes” dance was relatively vacant, but holy KC and the Sunshine Band, who could help but groove along with the duo from their living room? The choreography catered to the pair’s strengths, allowing them to show off their quick feet, and Nigel to deliver a clever comment he’d likely kept in his pocket (The Room alert!) all night: ”Don’t start clicking your heels three times, because you’re not going home,” our executive producer said to Lauren.

But if one dancer were to be sent home with Toto, it would be Billy. As much as we can praise the dancer for his chemistry with his fellow competitors and all-stars, it’s impossible not to pull the curtain on his weaknesses. And, strangely enough, his weakness lies in what was believed to be his greatest strength at the forefront of the competition: those crazy extensions. During his Louis Van Amstel dance with Anya, he couldn’t quite keep his legs in check, overextending his movements during the jive. Maybe I’m being too hard on the dancer, though, since I immediately hold a grudge on anything associated with ”Paradise By the Dashboard Light” after being forced to repeatedly hear a friend perform the eight-minute track during every single karaoke session I’ve ever attended. But I couldn’t help but feel that, like meatloaf (but not Meatloaf), the dance was ultimately forgettable, and left me wondering what I could digest next.

And, honestly, after devouring the creme brulée that was Travis Wall’s contemporary routine for Robert and Allison, any dance would have tasted like a grape popsicle. Look, whenever any SYTYCD choreographer plots a sentimental dance so close to their heart — Mia’s routine for her father, Tyce’s breast cancer routine — it’s easy to dismiss judge’s praise. How could Nigel & Co., critique a dance about death and tragedy? Yet, Travis’ number — which was inspired by his own mother’s surgery — was beautiful, heartfelt, and downright gorgeous. And even if Robert failed to shine in his Doriana Sanchez disco number with Kathryn, he brought enough passion, strength, and vigor to ”Fix You,” that I’ll ignore those nasty little thoughts that imagine how much more awe-inspiring it could have been had Alex F. Wong danced it. (Shakes fist at SYTYCD gods!)

Now I’ll leave things to you, my fellow So You Think You Can Dance fans: Whose dancing do you want to fix? Did you think they were harder on Jose than they should have been after his Broadway routine? Did you think Travis’ ”Fix You” number was one of the prettiest of the season? Did you love Cat’s fishtail braid as much as I did? Does anyone other than Jose deserve to go home? And what exactly was Nigel referring to when he said, ”I remember when we were ‘doing it’ in the ’70s”? And when Cat said, ”I think everyone wants to fix somebody,” did you, like me, automatically think of pervy Uncle Nigel? Until tomorrow!

Episode Recaps

So You Think You Can Dance

Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.
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